Efe Ajagba To Headline Top Rank Boxing January Show
Wednesday morning saw Top Rank Boxing make official that unbeaten heavyweight contender Eje Ajagba is back in January and will headline their January show in Verona, NY, against veteran Oscar Rivas. And, the co-feature will have another unbeaten, former Italian olympian Guido Vianello battling Stephan Shaw.
The Top Rank show will be Saturday January 14th from the Turning Stone Resort and will be broadcast on ESPN beginning at 10 p.m. Eastern,
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) November 30, 2022
From the Top Rank release,
“The heavyweight division is loaded with talent, and we have two 50/50 matchups that will see a pair of contenders emerge at Turning Stone,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum.
Ajagba (16-1, 13 KOs), a 2016 Nigerian Olympian, quickly established himself as one of the division’s heaviest hitters following his pro debut in July 2017. He tallied six first-round knockouts in his first eight bouts, using his 6’6 frame and sledgehammer right hand to dispose of his opposition. Last April, Ajagba utilized his right hand to blast out Brian Howard in a Knockout of the Year contender. Following an October 2021 decision defeat to Frank Sanchez, Ajagba had surgery on both his elbows, returning in August to stop Hungarian veteran Jozsef Darmos in the second round.
“I am injury-free and ready to show the world what I can accomplish when I am 100 percent,” Ajagba said. “I respect Oscar Rivas for accepting the challenge. We will give the fans a great show, but I will be victorious on January 14th.”
Rivas (28-1, 19 KOs) is a 2008 Colombian Olympian who moved to Montreal in 2009 to start his professional career. He notched his signature professional victory at Turning Stone in January 2019, knocking out former world title challenger Bryant Jennings in the 12th round. His only blemish came six months later when he traveled to England and dropped a unanimous decision to Dillian Whyte after knocking Whyte down in the ninth round. Since the Whyte defeat, Rivas has fought twice, knocking out Sylvera Louis in three rounds and outlasting Ryan Rozicki by unanimous decision in an all-Canadian showdown while winning the WBC Bridgerweight title. After multiple prospective bouts fell through, Rivas will enter the Ajagba match coming off a nearly 15-month layoff.
Rivas said, “I’m extremely happy to be back in the ring in Verona where I had a lot of success not too long ago. I’m proud of my WBC Bridgerweight title and will be defending it soon, but this opportunity Top Rank gave us at heavyweight was too good to pass up. I also have a lot of respect for Ajagba, and while I agree with him that it will be spectacular for the fans, my skills and my experience will be the difference.”
Vianello (10-0-1, 9 KOs), the fighting pride of Rome, turned pro with great fanfare in December 2018 and won his first seven bouts by stoppage in three rounds or less. His momentum stalled following a 2020 draw against Kingsley Ibeh and an injury-plagued 2021 that saw him fight once. Vianello came back in July and knocked out Rafael Rios in four rounds. Three months later, he returned home to Rome and had thrilled the local fans with a dominating eight-round decision over Jay McFarlane.
Vianello said, “Stephan Shaw is a good, undefeated fighter, but I fight better when presented with top opposition. I look forward to fighting on ESPN as part of a great heavyweight doubleheader.”
Shaw (18-0, 13 KOs), from St. Louis, Missouri, is one of America’s most talented big men, a 6’4, 235-pound boxer-puncher who has knocked out three of his last four foes.”
As the release states, Ajaba has had two elbow surgeries and that’s an unknown variable, as is Rivas having a 15 month layoff. Still, Top Rank is clearly positioning Ajaba and if he wins, Gianello, to perhaps meet each other sometime in the future. And, also down the road potentially against another prominent, unbeaten Top Rank contender in Jared “Real Big Baby” Anderson.